Lawsuit Filed Against No Fishing Zones

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Newly approved South Coast Marine Protected Areas or MPAs was challenged by a lawsuit on January 27 this year, filed by the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO) in behalf of California recreational anglers and boaters.

The California Fish and Game Commission had made the decision to limit or close fishing activities on about 15 percent of the coast along Southern California, including hot spots for fishing along Laguna Beach, La Jolla, Santa Catalina Island, and Palos Verdes, in what is known as the Marine Life Protection Act, or the MLPA, last December 15.

Robert Fletcher, former Sportsfishing Association of California and current Coastside Fishing Club and United Anglers of Southern California president filed the lawsuit, seeking to invalidate that decision by citing the lack of statutory authority to implement the regulations. It also pinpointed several violations to the CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act found during the review of the rules.

Fletcher described the MLPA process as having been established to achieve a predetermined goal while trying to appear like a transparent process. He said that the Fish and Game Commission has apparently ignored the legal requirements.

The lawsuit indicated that the commission did not have authority to modify, adopt, or remove Marine Protected Areas until a finalized Master Plan has been approved for the state. This has not yet been written. It also described the MLPA initiative, which was privately-funded, as having been conducted in an inconsistent manner to the process directed by the state legislature. Meetings were also apparently closed off to the public while needing to be open meetings.

The suit was pushed in the midst of months of high-tension and emotional meetings with opponents to proponents of MPAs. The most recent approval this past December made 36 new MPAs that covered about 187 square miles along the South Coast region state waters.

Closures and limits similar to these have already been set in motion in the Central and North Central Coast regions, covering from Alder Creek to Pigeon Point all the way to Point Conception.

The South Coast has been considered the third out of five coastal regions in California to set these MPAs in place as a way to adhere to the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 set in the state.

This means that most of the finest fishing areas have now been closed with the MLPA process.

Coastside Fishing Club science director Dan Wolford bemoans the fact that the North Central region anglers were now suffering from the excessive and unnecessary closures that they believed had been established improperly.

This lawsuit is actually the second filed by the PSO and Fletcher to challenge the MLPA. Back in October last year, a Superior Court in California ruled the case in favor of the group that pointed out the MLPA Master Plan Team and the Blue Ribbon Task Force had withheld much data from the public, and ruled that they indeed had to publicize their records to the general audience.

Many were disappointed in the process that set the closure in place, as they believed it would also affect tourism, transportation, food, lodging, and even the boating industries, among others.

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